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The Siena School Blog

Discover, Learn, Celebrate, and Empower

Welcome to Siena's blog, your source for helpful, cutting-edge resources tailored to teachers, parents, and other advocates in the learning differences community. We are dedicated to providing a wealth of curated knowledge spanning various topics, ranging from dyslexia advocacy and awareness to classroom teaching strategies, heritage month profiles, and social and emotional health.



Black History Month: Siena Community Playlist

February 13, 2024
By Joe Fruscione, Communications, Content, and Advancement Coordinator

The theme of Black History Month 2024 is African Americans and the Arts.  Since the musical arts have been so culturally fundamental in Black American history, Siena is celebrating this rich musical tradition by highlighting the important work our community has done in generating shared playlists.

Music in Black Culture

As Steven Lewis wrote in Musical Crossroads: African American Influence on American Music,

The music of African Americans is one of the most poetic and inescapable examples of the importance of the African American experience to the cultural heritage of all Americans, regardless of race or origin. [...] Over the centuries, African American musicians have drawn on the ancestral connection to Africa as a source of pride and inspiration.

Recognizing this widespread historical importance of Black music, some Siena students created a playlist of songs meaningful to them in a weekly multicultural affinity group. For high school senior Ash, “We’re happy to talk about something as important to us as music in the group. The playlist is a fun new thing Siena did this year for Black History Month, and it’d  be great to see it happen during other heritage months.” 

Inspired by this group of students, Siena teachers and staff members collaborated on their own Black music playlist, recommending a mix of over 70 songs from the 20th and 21st centuries. Here are just a few songs from this diverse community playlist:

“We wanted to share our version back with the students about music that matters to us,” history teacher Warren Phenegar added. “We also shared why these songs are important to us, ranging from historical importance to specific personal or emotional reasons.” Both Ash and a classmate shared that they learned about many new songs from the teacher playlist and are seeing this as an ongoing learning experience.

See the Siena Faculty BHM Playlist on Spotify. (Note: some songs have an “E” rating for explicit content.)

Black Music Book and Podcast Recommendations

Those looking for recent books can try Kelefah Sanneh’s Major Labels and Questlove’s Music Is History to get started. For additional Black music book recommendations, see 15 Books About the Impact of Black Music on Pop Culture (Teen Vogue), Books for Black Music Appreciation Month (Penguin Random House), and Popular Black Music Books (Goodreads).

For Black music podcasts, see All Music Is Black Music (National Museum of African American History and Culture), Black Music Matters, Questlove Supreme, and Black Girl Songbook, among many others.

See also this very rich and useful piece on African American Music from Smithsonian Music, which includes some featured playlists, learning modules, and videos.

Siena Resources 

See this Black History Month 2024 blog post about Black writers with dyslexia LeDerick Horne and Marcia Brissett-Bailey. Our blog has other heritage month spotlights related to innovative dyslexia education, including Native American book recommendations, Mexican writer and activist Victor Villaseñor, Chicano artist Ignacio Gomez, WNBA stars A’Ja Wilson and Jewell Loyd, NFL star Rashan Gary, and others.

Learn more about Siena’s commitments and ongoing initiatives for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging

Siena’s mission-focused innovative dyslexia education is designed for students in grades 3-12 with language-based learning differences on campuses in Silver Spring, Maryland, and Oakton, Virginia.

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